In 2019 Dina Asher-Smith ran 19 times and I saw 17 of the races. (The two I missed were a 4 by 400 season opener in the Southern Athletics League Division 1 and the Diamond League in USA). That Dina ran in a local league event shows that she has not lost touch with her roots.
It was a great year for Dina culminating in World Championship gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m. Just to be perverse, she won the Diamond League 100m and came second in the 200m. I have this standing joke with Dina – I imagine I find it funnier than she does! – that I ask her whether she is better at 100 and 200 and she replies that she does not know! I first asked the question in 2015 in Russia and most recently in Belgium in 2019. Asking the same question and hoping for a different answer is, I suppose, a variation on Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
When she won the World Championship 200m, there were whispers that Shelly-Ann, Elaine, Dafne, and Tori were not the race. There are three answers to that. Firstly you can only beat those who are in the race and she did! Secondly, that Dina was able to medal in the three sprints while others were not, was a tribute to her fitness and season management. Thirdly, a comparison of the Dina’s 21.88 winning time with the times recorded by the Olympic and World Championship winners in the past 15 years, shows only four faster times.
2005 Allyson Felix 22.16
2007 Allyson Felix 21.81
2009 Allyson Felix 22.02
2011 Veronica Campbell-Brown 22.22
2013 Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 22.17
2015 Dafne Schippers 21.63
2017 Dafne Schippers 22.05
2004 Veronica Campbell-Brown 22.05
2008 Veronica Campbell-Brown 21.74
2012 Allyson Felix 21.88
2016 Elaine Thompson 21.78
The conclusion is clear: Dina was a worthy winner in 2019.
Her comments on the race revealed something of the pressure she felt: “I don’t think it’s properly sunk in, it’s something that since the last World Championships, John [coach John Blackie] and I knew that I could do it but it’s a different thing actually going and doing it – it means so much.
“Normally I’m quite chatty and full of energy but it’s a different thing with everyone saying you’re the favorite and winning it. You’re only the favorite if you go out and perform how people expect you to and I was really focused on putting together a good race. I dreamt of this but now it’s real.
“I am so tired. I have done six races up to tonight. The work was worth it, I finished the season like this. I was really focused on getting together a good race. It means a lot. I have so many emotions”.
When asked about whether she could be the dominant force in a new era of global sprinting, she gave a typically sensible and down-to-earth answer: “I don’t really think like that. I think it should be an era where all the stars in all the events get their time to shine. For me, there is still a lot of hard work to be done. I’m just going to try and be the best athlete I can be.”
Dina had already silver in the 100m in the World Championships in 10.83 behind Shelly-Ann’s 10.71. While Dina won the 2019 Diamond League 100m final in 10.88 to Shelly’s 10.95, it is hard to argue with Shelly’s victory in her fourth 10.70-something time of the season. Dina still felt she had a lot to be thankful for: “A PR and a national record – that’s more than you could ever ask for in a World Championships final. Yeah, I’d have loved to win but Shelly-Ann ran a superb race today. That’s why she’s the champion she is. I’ve never done a 100m at a World Championships before so for me this is a new experience. I’ve never been on this stage so I have to be happy. Everybody wants to be world champion, of course, and I have a chance in the 200m. Now I’m going to go and get some rest and prepare for that”.
In a nice touch Dina also paid tribute to Christine Ohuruogu: “Chrissy O was texting me during the World Championships. She is a good stabilising force because you remember when she was competing she was always so composed as a person and as an athlete. My favourite athletics highlight is watching her winning races right at the end by a few hundredths. She is very wise and she brings that to me. It’s really cool that she was one of my idols and now she’s texting me”.
For an informed assessment of Dina, I asked someone who knows a bit about sprinting. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: “Dina is a talented athlete and she’s doing remarkable things for her country. To see her progress from being a young athlete to a world champion is phenomenal. It just shows that sprinting is not exclusive to any one country. But if you believe in yourself and put in the work anything is possible. Dina is a fierce competitor. She always shows up and gets the job done. For me it’s good that we have more female athletes who show up and make the competition exciting. It also makes sure that you are doing the right things”.